How has narcissism become mainstream behavior for Generation Y in our society?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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First of all, we should note that it is not necessarily clear that Generation Y is more narcissistic than previous generations of Americans.  In addition, even if Generation Y is more narcissistic, it is not possible to know for sure why this is so.  In the social sciences, we cannot run controlled experiments in which we remove or change certain factors in our society and see if that changes levels of narcissism.  Therefore, this answer cannot be objectively true and is, instead, just a theory about Generation Y and narcissism.

One possible reason for narcissism in Generation Y is the increasing nastiness and extreme partisanship of American politics.  In the past, people might have been more interested in politics and in political issues because the political environment was less toxic.  With today’s extreme levels of partisan rancor, it is easy for young people to be turned off by politics.  Both sides seem selfish and uninterested in the common good, making it harder for young people to think that they should care about political issues.  Because the political environment discourages them from caring about political issues, they are able to focus more on themselves, making them more narcissistic.

Another major reason for narcissism in Generation Y is the rise of social media.  Social media makes it much easier for people to focus on themselves.  With social media, we are constantly invited to tell the world about us—about our feelings, our opinions, what we have had for lunch, and other such things.  We live in a world where it is normal to think about ourselves and to think that others will be interested in all of our doings.  This helps to make members of Generation Y more narcissistic. 

Finally, we can say that changing social mores helped make Generation Y more narcissistic.  They belong to a generation that has grown up in a world where everyone gets a trophy for participating in sports and where people constantly worry about their self-esteem.  They receive messages that imply that they are the most important thing in the world.  Because they are exposed to all of these messages about their own importance, it is easy for them to become narcissistic.

All of these factors are possible reasons Generation Y could be more narcissistic than other generations of Americans.

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